Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Based on the book “Rope Burns” by F.X. Toole.
Screenplay by Paul Haggis
Starring: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña
When a determined and unskilled Maggie (Swank) arrives in his gym, Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) takes little notice. Eventually she succeeds in getting Frankie to train her. This unlikely pair begins to form a unique bond as Maggie climbs the ranks in the boxing world.
This film won Best Picture at the 77th Academy Awards, beating out The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, and Sideways. The story was put together from a series of stories written by F.X. Toole (A Place Called Glory). The screenplay was written by Paul Haggis () who would win an Oscar the following year for his film Crash. Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) directed and starred in this film alongside Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Morgan Freeman (Amistad). Eastwood would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Director. Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and Michael Peña (Fury) are also part of the cast.
The story written for this film comes from a former boxing manager who wrote under the name F.X. Toole. He took his own experiences and wrote a series of short stories published as “Rope Burns”. Paul Haggis pulled from these stories to bring Million Dollar Baby to life. The story pairs a number of unlikely characters together in a great drama. The characters of Maggie and Frankie really stand out thanks to their unique backgrounds and the way they come together. The writing also introduces a number of supporting characters that bring the right elements to their scenes. These smaller roles do their job without getting in the way of the bigger story line. The dialogue in this movie is also nicely written. It seems to give a lot of depth and personality to everyone in the film. The inner-conflict of the main characters is also good since it becomes almost as important as the obvious obstacles throughout the film. This screenplay earned Paul Haggis an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
It’s difficult to summarize this film or talk about the writing without spoiling some of the major plot points. For those of you who’ve seen this film I hope I’ve been able to avoid ruining the movie. For those who haven’t, there are some excellent twists in the plot that help it avoid being another feel-good sports film.
The acting in this movie does a great job bringing the screenplay to the big screen. Hilary Swank really leads the way with a character that seems simple, but slowly becomes more complex throughout the film. She also holds her own with Eastwood and the rest of the cast. Clint Eastwood also has some great moments in this film. His performance as a man haunted by his past plays nicely when put up against Swank’s optimism. He also has a good chemistry with Morgan Freeman, having worked with him on Unforgiven. Morgan Freeman also does good work with his role in the film. He found just enough grit in his role to make it stand out. Both Hilary Swank (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor) were honored with Oscars for their work in this one, and Eastwood was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
The cast also has some fun moments from Jay Baruchel, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Peña. Despite the more serious tone of the film, these three have some lighter moments that help to keep this from being too dark of a film. The rest of the actors also do good work in bringing out a rich cast of characters that give this film the depth it needs.
The visuals in this movie do a good job with the story. This includes great camera work, costuming, and set design. Part of the success of this movie is the way that the world of boxing is brought to life. The editing in the movie is also really good. For his work Joel Cox was nominated for Best Film Editing. the use of shadows in this movie seems to acknowledge the tone of the story. This movie also has an awesome score, written by director Clint Eastwood.
This is a great drama that has a number of successful elements that come together perfectly. The world of boxing might not interest everyone, but this movie is more about the people than the fights. If you’re a fan of sports films this will still be a good watch. I would also suggest this to fans of great emotional drama. If you like Swank, Eastwood, Freeman or anyone else in the cast; this is also one to check out. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The cast is great in this, but it’s Eastwood’s direction that wins the day. It’s simple, subtle, and sweet, which brings it all around, full picture, when the movie’s all said and done. Nice review.
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Thanks for another great comment! This movie isn’t an easy watch since the emotion sticks out so strongly, but it’s a beautiful film.
not an easy movie to watch if you know the ending, but Eastwood does an amazing job here
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It’s definitely one of his more vulnerable performances on the screen. His directing puts this one over the top.